Monday morning federal headlines - Sept. 19

Monday - 9/19/2011, 8:32am EDT

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Amy Morris discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • The Pentagon's top hats have a good plan to get a clean financial audit. But the Government Accountability Office is skeptical about whether the armed services and DoD agencies can carry it out. DoD is under a mandate to produce a clean audit by 2017. In its latest review, GAO said the Pentagon's comptroller has laid out a reasonable roadmap. But Asif Kahn, GAO's top financial auditor, told lawmakers he's doubtful the components can get their systems and procedures reworked in time. (Federal News Radio)

  • The president has signed into law a bill extending federal aviation and highway programs. His signature made sure the Federal Aviation Administration avoided another partial shutdown. The latest temporary extension is the 21st for the FAA, and the eighth for federal highway programs. The bill keeps the lights on until March 31. Numerous transportation interest groups are urging Congress to find a permanent agreement for transportation programs. (Federal News Radio)

  • Agencies have pushed 85 percent of stimulus dollars out the door. Now, the administration is urging them to spend the remaining 15 percent. Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew told agency heads to accelerate spending on recovery grants to states and cities, citing the need to raise employment levels. The 2009 economic stimulus bill gave agencies until 2013 to obligate and outlay more than a half-trillion dollars. The latest OMB directive also orders agencies to submit plans for recovering money received but not spent by grantees. Those dollars go back to the Treasury. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Patent and Trademark Office is planning to hire as many as 2,000 new examiners. PTO wants to knock down a backlog of patent applications that's reached more than a million. It takes three years on average for an application to go through, while some 700,000 applications have yet to be opened and read. Director David Kappos said the new staff, if Congress approves it, will cut that to 600,000 within a year. President Obama signed into law a bill changing the way PTO awards patents, which favors the first to apply for a patent, instead of the first to invent. Last week the PTO awarded the nation's eight millionth patent. (Federal News Radio)

  • Contracting officer's technical representatives often act as the government's front line against waste, fraud and abuse. Now their jobs are getting an overhaul. Starting Jan. 1, they'll have a new title: Contract Officer's Representative. And they'll have new training and certification requirements. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy laid out three levels of certification Contract Officer's Representatives can achieve, depending on the size and complexity of the procurements they monitor, and how many hours of formal training they receive. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is about to be reorganized. The move comes only 15 months after the agency was formed in the first place. Starting Oct. 1st, the bureau will be split into two parts. One part will be called the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. The second piece will be called the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, GovExec reports. Michael Bromwich, who has led the larger agency since it was formed in June 2010, will be the initial director of the enforcement bureau. Tammy Beaudreau will head up the management agency. The Interior Department reorganized offshore drilling regulation after the Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout in April of last year. (GovExec)

  • The Transportation Security Administration has spent billions of dollars on security initiatives. Now the Government Accountability Office is taking a closer look at how TSA is doing. GAO looked at the SPOT program, which stands for Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, and airport perimeter and access security. The SPOT program is more effective than random screening, but can't show if it weeds out terrorists or other security risks. As for airport perimeter security, GAO found that TSA hasn't conducted a risk assessment or developed a national strategy. GAO recommends that TSA develop a comprehensive risk assessment and evaluate the need to conduct airport vulnerability assessments nationwide and come up with a national strategy to guide efforts to strengthen airport security. (GAO)